Crack­ing the Choles­terol Code

The Standard Journal - - LOCAL - By Ti­fani Ki­nard Floyd Polk Med­i­cal Cen­ter

If you’re like most peo­ple, you know that high choles­terol is a bad thing, but did you also know there is a such thing as good choles­terol and you don’t want it to drop too low? The hu­man body is a com­plex or­gan­ism. That’s why we make ed­u­ca­tion an im­por­tant com­po­nent of the Live Well Polk! ini­tia­tive. With that in mind, let’s try to crack the choles­terol code.

Choles­terol is a fat-like sub­stance pro­duced by the liver and found nat­u­rally in the body. The body uses choles­terol to make vi­ta­min D and hor­mones, and to form new cells. The other source of choles­terol in your body is from foods you eat, pri­mar­ily an­i­mal prod­ucts such as egg yolks, dairy, meat and seafood.

When your body has too much choles­terol, it can cause plaque buildup in the ar­ter­ies. This can lead to heart dis­ease, stroke and other se­ri­ous ill­nesses. Too much choles­terol can be caused by eat­ing un­healthy foods, lack of ex­er­cise or sim­ply ge­net­ics.

Here are six facts that can as­sist in the man­age­ment of choles­terol:

1. Ev­ery­one 20 years of age or older should know their choles­terol num­bers. A choles­terol blood test (called a lipopro­tein pro­file) should be per­formed and ex­plained by your fam­ily doc­tor ev­ery four to six years, ac­cord­ing to the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­cia-tion. Those with el­e­vated risk should be test more fre­quently.

2. High choles­terol cre­ates a higher risk for heart dis­ease and stroke, the No. 1 and No. 4 killers in the United States. Too much choles­terol builds up in the ar­ter­ies, which forms plaque. Plaque can clog artery walls, mak­ing it more dif­fi­cult for blood to flow.

3. Chil­dren can have high choles­terol. The Amer­i­can Academy of Pe­di­atrics re­com-mends a choles­terol screen­ing for all kids be­tween ages 9 and 11. and se­lec­tive screen­ing should be done even ear­lier – be­gin­ning at age 2 – for chil­dren with a high risk of hav­ing choles­terol is­sues, in­clud­ing kids with obe­sity, a fam­ily his­tory of heart at­tacks and a fam­ily his­tory of high choles­terol.

4. Women’s choles­terol lev­els fluc­tu­ate. Dur­ing preg­nancy, choles­terol lev­els rise, which is thought to help ba­bies’ brains de­velop. and choles­terol-rich breast milk is thought to be heart­pro­tec­tive for ba­bies as they age. Post-preg­nancy, choles­terol lev­els should re­turn to nor­mal. But af­ter menopause, women’s LDL choles­terol lev­els go up, while pro­tec­tive HDL lev­els de­cline, notes the Cleve­land Clinic. By age 75, women tend to have higher choles­terol lev­els than men.

5. Choles­terol is mea­sured us­ing these com­po­nents:

To­tal choles­terol – This num­ber is achieved by mea­sur­ing HDL choles­terol, LDL choles­terol and triglyc­erides.

LDL choles­terol – This “bad” choles­terol blocks your ar­ter­ies, caus­ing heart dis-ease. Low lev­els of LDL are best.

HDL choles­terol – This “good” choles­terol helps re­move LDL choles­terol, pro-tect­ing against heart dis­ease. High lev­els of HDL are good.

Triglyc­erides – This type of fat in the blood helps the body make en­ergy. If lev­els are too high, it can cause heart dis­ease.

6. There’s a trick to re­mem­ber­ing which type of choles­terol is good and which is bad:

HDL is the healthy “good” choles­terol and should be high. Re­mem­ber, H for High.

LDL is the “bad” choles­terol and should be low. Re­mem­ber, L for Low.

Re­search has shown that a good way to un­der­stand your risk for high choles­terol is mea­sure four key num­bers: body mass in­dex, blood pres­sure, rest­ing blood sugar and to­tal choles­terol.

Your pri­mary health care provider can per­form these tests so that you know these num­bers and do more than just live. You can live well.

Ti­fani Ki­nard is the Hospi­tal Ad­min­is­tra­tor and Chief Nurs­ing Of­fi­cer of Floyd Polk Med­i­cal Cen­ter.

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